Except in the few movements where the strings hold the spotlight, or where the woodwinds and horns elaborate briefly on a theme, the orchestral scoring is secondary, and for long stretches the St. Paul musicians sat silently.
-Allen Kozinn in the New York Times on the premiere of Brad Mehldau’s Highway Rider for jazz ensemble and orchestra.
I am quite certain that Brad Mehldau is one of the very top jazz pianists active today. I am less certain that he is the very top choice of composer to be given opportunities to write for Renee Fleming, Anne Sophie von Otter, or the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and to be composer-in-residence at Carnegie Hall. It’s not that jazz artists shouldn’t be allowed sully the holy institution of The Orchestra with their grimy hands. That’s just dumb. But it does seem odd for Mehldau to have opportunities of this stature.
I look forward to, say, John Harbison, or Augusta Read Thomas being offered a commission by Jazz at Lincoln Center. More about Renee Fleming here.